This morning it appeared DESJOYEAUX might have escaped from the Doldrums even before crossing the Equator, with his speed back up to 9.9 knots, but in this unpredictable zone, you cannot jump to any hasty conclusions. The violence of the squalls could still offer some surprises to the clear leader in the sixth Vendée Globe. Three hundred and thirty four miles further south, Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) onboard Veolia Environnement must be feeling more pleased after regaining 160 miles in 36 hours. At 13.3 knots this morning, he is making the most of the steady trade winds to win back the miles from his rival.
It may not be the Doldrums, but for Samantha DAVIES (GBR) onboard Roxy, to the south of Rio, the effect is the same. Struggling in light winds her average speed over 24 hours has dropped to 6.5 knots. At the same time, Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) on Safran, closer to the Brazilian coast has maintained his speed (11.6 knots) meaning that he is now just 35 miles from DAVIES, whereas 48 hours ago, 250 miles separated them.
The battle is raging too between the Cape Horn trio, Brian THOMPSON (GBR) on Bahrain Team Pindar, Dee CAFFARI (GBR) on Aviva and Arnaud BOISSIÈRES (FRA) on Akena Vérandas off the Valdès Peninsula in Argentina.
On his ten-year-old boat, the Frenchman is finding it difficult to keep up with his British rivals. CAFFARI doing 16.9 knots this morning in spite of the damage to her mainsail has achieved the best performance over 24 hours. CAFFARI now finds herself just 70 miles behind THOMPSON and the same distance ahead of the French skipper, and she has been consistently quicker than her compatriot.
After a quick passage towards Cape Horn, a traditionally bumpy and windy first rounding at 20:30 last night, Steve WHITE (GBR) onboard Toe in the Water suffered the transitional slow down as he turns up the Atlantic towards the Maire Straits. But at 06:00 this morning he had made nearly 100 miles since the lonely rock but, while last night his was pledging to do all he can to catch the trio nearly 1,000 miles in front of him, light winds in the South Atlantic may thwart his ambition initially at least.
"I am so happy to be here, happy to have made, happy to all the troubles we had behind us, happy to have got here in one piece," said WHITE last night off Cape Horn, "When I was thinking about it before this was really just a mark of the course I was looking to get to as quickly as possible, but now I am here it is living up to its reputation. I have 43 knots of wind and have seen 58, but it has moderated a little. When you get to the [continental] shelf it was amazing. Just big vertical walls of water. You go up one and just smash straight back into the back of the next one. And when I came to gybe it was the first time that I have gone done the full round up broaching straight upwind and having to let everything off to get the boat back on her feet."
"And, yes, there is that ominous feeling, it is oppressive and lonely and you can't help but reflect on all those square riggers years and years back. It must have been really incredibly miserable going past here on them, you kind of wonder if it was worth it for a ship load of tea-bags!"
"I guess you probably would feel short changed to be here if it was calm or easy, but I am certainly looking forward to getting round the corner into some flatter water and getting the foot down after them in front. That is the aim and I really want to catch them and I really think I can do it. With a bit of luck they'll be caught in the Doldrums."
WHITE only started sailing by chance 14 years ago, and only then because he had a towbar on his car. A friend bought a 17 foot plywood Lysander centre-board pocket cruiser and WHITE and his wife Kim were coerced to tow their friend's pride and joy to the water. Of course a wheel bearing went on the trip and WHITE's mechanical skills saved the day.
They were quickly hooked and soon bought their own little 23 foot Robert Tucker designed Ballerina which WHITE refitted to go anywhere. And today he is a Cape Horner.
Vendee Globe Leaderboard - 04:00 UTC 20 January 2009
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia at 3266.3 miles to finish
2. Roland JOURDAIN (FRA), Veolia Environnement at 334.9 miles from first place
3. Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA), Brit Air at 1022.8 miles from first place
4. Sam DAVIES (GBR), Roxy at 1898.4 miles from first place
5. Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA), Safran at 1933.6 miles from first place
6. Brian THOMPSON (GBR), Bahrain Team Pindar at 2590.5 miles from first place
7. Dee CAFFARI (GBR), Aviva at 2659.5 miles from first place
8. Arnaud BOISSIÈRES (FRA), Akena Vérandas at 2707.8 miles from first place
9. Steve WHITE (GBR), Toe in the water at 3685 miles from first place
10. Rich WILSON (USA), Great American III at 5152.9 miles from first place
11. Raphaël Dinelli (FRA), Fondation Océan Vital at 6877.5 miles from first place
12. Norbert SEDLACEK (AUT), Nauticsport . Kapsch at 6886.3 miles from first place
RDG . Vincent RIOU (FRA), PRB, Awarded equal third as redress
30 boats started